After Jenny fell out of love with Sam
she fell in love with Asher. How difficult
was the time in between? On a scale of one
to ten at least an eight, during which
we all learned how little satisfaction
you can get out of blame. The many ways
we’re lied to every day by those in control
of our lives make it amazing that anyone
can lay a hand on someone else and hope
it will feel like tenderness. Or perhaps
the private life is what we’ve retreated to
as our country slides deeper into disgrace.
Have we become so fragile every word
is the right word only if spoken
just so? Does “I’ll call you tomorrow”
mean tomorrow? Does “Of course” mean maybe?
Hurricane season is beginning and we’ve
been told what to expect. I remember
Kurt Vonnegut saying, “Everything is going
to get a lot worse and never get any better,”
and that was years ago. How do we make
all this look like someone else’s fault?
is what our president is wondering.
How can I avoid doing anything? Soon
one of those storms we can only expect more of
assembles into red and yellow blotches
on the Doppler screen. Rotation is possible.
Damaging winds. Nickel-size hail.
When Sam tried to kill himself Jenny discovered
how she’d been deceived and she understood
they couldn’t go on. You can live for years
with someone you think you know and then
you don’t. You can lie so brazenly
to the country you’re in charge of that millions
are convinced you’re sincere. “This will certainly
teach me a lesson” is what Vonnegut said
the condemned prisoner’s last words should be.
Who can doubt the bitterness of our future?—
unless you’re counting on being raptured away
or have already planned to blow yourself up
to earn your place in heaven. Ten minutes
of furious rain and this storm is over.
Thursday another front will pass through.
When Jenny fell out of love with Sam she thought
she’d never be in love again and I said,
Yes, you will, and sooner than you think,
which was easy for me to say because
I was her father and I believed it,
though I’d have said the same thing
even if I hadn’t known it was the truth.
Lawrence Raab is the author of seven poetry collections, including What We Don’t Know About Each Other, winner of the National Poetry Series, and a finalist for the National Book Award, The Probable World, Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems, and his latest collection, The History of Forgetting, all published by Penguin. He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.